Are Sports, Health Care, Finance, Tourism and Publishing ‘Industries’?

A former Northwestern University professor of mine, Irv Rein, is one of three authors who collaborated on a newly published book: The Sports Strategist: Developing Leaders for a High-Performance Industry. In a LinkedIn group to which I belong, another member (not Prof. Rein) makes this statement about the book’s content:

The Sports Strategist features numerous case studies that help to frame pressing issues within the sports industry and also identifies best practices from other industries and applies them to the sports world.

“Sports industry” stopped me mid-sentence. Is sports an industry? It’s not the only place where industry has crept in. We now have the health care industry, the financial industry, the tourist industry, the publishing industry. Yet not one of these has anything to do with what is probably the most widely understood and accepted definition of industry:

Economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories; the process of making products by using machinery and factories.

Publishing probably comes the closest to creating a product, even though ebooks are simply electronic files.

But language, of course, evolves. And the broad application of industry to imply “a group of businesses that provide a particular product or service” (Merriam-Webster Online) is, it seems, now accepted usage.

Our expanded use of industry is a trend that probably is not worth my time to buck. However, in my writing and editing, I will continue to find what I consider more appropriate and accurate terms such as the healthcare field, the financial sector, the tourist trade and the publishing business.

With this book, one can easily and accurately describe its mission without introducing industry into the equation. Here are two examples:

See how in sports, a team’s revenues are affected by factors other than how many games it wins.

See how in the world of sports, a team’s revenues are affected by factors apart from the number of games won.

Update Dec. 20, 2014

I just discovered another industry. An Oct. 21, 2014, article posted on about fraternity culture and college sexual assault states:

Meanwhile, colleges and universities, along with the national fraternity industry, carefully measure oversight to avoid liability.

The fraternity industry? Really?! I’ll add updates as I discover new categories of “industries.”

Update Dec. 31, 2014

Heard by a sports reporter today: “the athletic-industrial complex.” Hmmmmm …

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)